This year’s Alexander Technique Awareness Week is the 16th organised by STAT, running from the 14th to the 20th October 2019.
War veteran speaks out to help others understand ‘Where’s your head at?’
Richard Marsden, a Falklands veteran who suffered from PTSD, has joined forces with the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) to help people learn about the connection between mental and physical health.
The 59-year-old, who also saw active service in Northern Ireland and was on duty at both the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana and the funeral of Lord Mountbatten, didn’t realise he’d been suffering with PTSD until years after his military career finished.
To mark Alexander Technique Week (14-20 October) Richard wanted to share his story in the hope that others who might be struggling with emotional and physical pain are encouraged to talk about their feelings and seek help.
He says: “I reached the rank of Sergeant and packed a lot into military life. I loved the camaraderie and variety of work but left because symptoms were starting to manifest which weren’t properly diagnosed until 26 years later.
“After 12 years in the forces I’d really struggled with life on ‘civvy street’. Despite doing well in my job, daily life was becoming too difficult and eventually I had to give up work. What I also didn’t realise at the time, was my mind was still in military mode – I was metaphorically marching around approaching everything as if I was still in the army. The resulting mix gave me both physical and mental health issues; I had spinal problems, was unable to work and my marriage broke down. I was actually only diagnosed with PTSD four years ago. ”
Richard tried various therapies to help with both his back and mental health to no avail when someone recommended the Alexander Technique. He quickly learned that by being conscious how his head balanced on his spine, his neck muscles relaxed and he became less stiff as the whole of his body began to use muscle more efficiently. He became aware of his breathing and learned to recognise and inhibit emotions associated with stress such as anger, fear and helplessness.
He continues: “By practising the Alexander Technique and becoming a teacher of it myself, I have learned to let both the functional movements and mental mindset of the military go and now have a much better quality of life. I fully support STAT’s ‘Where’s your head at?’ campaign as it perfectly embodies that how your head is on the inside is intrinsically linked to how your head is poised on the outside.”
A previous student of Richard says: “I think Richard’s story is an inspiration to anyone who feels that they too would like to learn how to change physical and thinking habits. In six Alexander lessons you can kick start a series of changes that will stay with you for life.”
“One of the first things I teach is how to lie in the semi-supine position. It allows your head to rest at an optimum position, relaxes the muscles in your back and gives you mindful time out. “
“During Alexander Technique Week, practise this position for ten minutes every day and feel the difference. Lying in the semi-supine should be as much a daily habit as cleaning your teeth is and it’s every bit as preventative in terms of your health.”
From 14-20 October Richard and other participating STAT teachers are offering discounted lessons.
How to lie in the semi-supine position
- Lie down on the floor with a couple of paperback books under your head to raise it slightly.
- Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Feel the back spreading onto the floor
- Notice how you are in contact with the floor and your head with the books; notice the main weight-transmitting areas – the back of your head, the two shoulder blades, the back of the hips and the feet
- The best way to stop and take charge of your mind is to notice the thoughts whirling around in your head and think ‘no’ to them; in the Alexander Technique we call this ‘inhibiting’. Bring your mind back to concentrating that your neck is free, lengthening, going up and out of the shoulders and that your back is gently spreading and widening onto the floor
- Each time your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to where you are here and now, simply noticing what you can see, hear and feel
- Think of the whole of your back, starting at your tailbone and gradually working all the way up to the top of your spine, with the idea of a gentle unfurling all the way up
- When you have managed to get yourself really still, think of something that makes you feel stressed and notice what it does to your body. Then inhibit and let your thoughts become quiet again. Think about the stressful thing again but this time omit the tensions you noticed as you inhibit and you can see just how powerful your thought is.
As part of this Richard Marsden s providing a discount to the Cumbria area and is reducing his prices at his Barrow-in-Furness Practice. This is to promote awareness of Mental Health Recovery which can be aided by the Alexander Technique.
Initial Consultation –
Lessons (per session)-
The best introduction to the Alexander Technique is by a one to one session
Richard is an Alexander Technique Teacher in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria and Preston, Lancashire. He has been practising since 2002.